As deadline approaches jewellery industry examines 28-point plan.
The National Association of Goldsmiths (NAG) last week hosted a forum for members of the jewellery industry to discuss the 28 points highlighted in Mary Portas’ high street review of how the government can help boost footfall.
The NAG hosted the forum at the new Goldsmiths’ Centre in Clerkenwell to talk through the results of the report and approve its adoption. Three industry experts were called upon to offer their perspectives as the spring deadline for the government’s response to Mary Portas’ proposals approaches.
Mike McGraw of Development Initiatives focused on the decline of UK high streets and said that many of Portas’ proposed actions, including Business Improvement Districts (BIDS) and business mentoring schemes, were positive.
Chris Wade, chief executive of Action for Market Towns, considered the report in the broader context of town centre regeneration, suggesting that the government should work primarily on the review’s ‘town centre first’ proposals.
The final speaker of the day was Jayant Raniga, brand manager at PureJewels, a family-run jeweller on London’s Green Street.
Raniga took a practical slant on the implementation process of the 28 points and described the achievements of the Green Street Association, whilst calling particularly for a review of the Use Class system relating to betting shops and other operators.
All three speakers welcomed the concept of Town Teams to establish high street brand values, but feared the government’s bidding competition for 12 towns to share a million-pound development pot was little more than a distraction from the serious proposals in Mary Portas’ report.
Michael Hoare, chief executive of the NAG, told guests of his own wish list. He is hoping for “a restoration of the link between business rates and local services; a fair and transparent planning regime; and meaningful power in the hands of local government.”
Hoare also supported the notion of a “robust” ‘town centre first’ planning policy, stating that about 80% of future development is planned for out-of-town developments.
“Business rates are one of the biggest barriers to business entry and growth on the high street, and therefore the Portas proposals are to be applauded; but the challenge will be for government and councils to find suitable funding models,” said Hoare.
“Similarly, more free parking is a laudable aim, plugging the gap in council finances, the potential stumbling block.”
NAG chairman Nicholas Major summed up the contribution from the 50 delegates present at the forum. He said it would be “shameful to waste the energy building around high street regeneration”, and urged the government not to take the easy option and dismiss Portas’ more radical suggestions out of hand.
The NAG has said that information from the meeting will be available on its blog in the coming weeks.